Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Memorial Day

Along with the usual triumphant stuff on the dial about wars and rumors of wars, there is on Memorial Day certainly to be found a share of Christian Nation rhetoric, calling us to go back to the 1700's to rediscover our calling as a nation, although calls to recreate slavery and other anti-human institutions of that era usually don't get mentioned along with it.

I happened upon such a spiel yesterday when I tuned into the trinity broadcasting network on my cable tv expecting to see Dwight Nelson, A seventh day adventist (my denomination) minister. Nelson is a reasonably moderate and entertaining fellow who I first heard speak on the campus of Andrews University in Berrien Springs, MI some 20 years ago, and who has from time to time conducted evangelical campaigns.

Anyway, Nelson wasn't on but David Barton was. I won't rehash all of who or what David Barton is and what he had to say except to say that he is a Christian Reconstructionist and that his spiel was noteworty for two things that commonly figure into the usual talking points used by religious conservatives who think we should go back to Levicticus for guidance on public policy.

The first is the well-worn contention about how Christian our national heritage is because Benjamin Franklin called for prayer during the Constitutional debates in 1787. Funny thing about Franklin's motion to begin every session with prayer, though, that doesn't get mentioned in this retelling, and which Barton, surely reading from the same talking points, didn't mention either: Franklin's prayer request was rejected before it was voted on:

Although Mr. Sherman formally seconded the motion, and a few voices in favour were heard, opposition to it was so vocal and extensive that President of the Convention George Washington let the days business close without taking a vote (perhaps to spare Dr. Franklin the embarrassment of a formally recorded rejection). The subject of prayer did not come up again during the rest of the Convention.

So Franklin's prayer that's been said to have changed the course of history and enabled the passing of the Constitution including its 3/5ths clause for southern blacks. Yeah, that prayer. Didn't happen.

The second point of interest is that Barton, perhaps relying too strongly on his talking points, didn't mention that odd little bit in our Constitution, Article VI, which after stating the federal government's obligation to satisfying the debts incurred by the government under the Articles of Confederation and stating the Constitution's supreme authority over other laws in the land, says that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States. "

Gee, I wonder why Barton didn't mention that.

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